Diving deeper into sound design

I feel like most supercollider tutorials touch the same sound design topics, like the basics of different kinds of synthesis, but it seems they are always with the purpose of teaching supercollider itself. Also these tutorials give examples of effects, but they dont explain the theory behind them, or how to fine tune them. I need material that focuses on the novice/intermediate levels of sound design, and explains the theory behind it, but still doesnt stray too far away from audio programming. What material has helped you alot in improving your sound designing skills in supercollider?

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That’s sort of a big question.

It’s a bit hard to gauge what intermediate level means.

That could mean “I understand subtractive synthesis but I’ve never encountered FM.”
Or maybe “I know what a filter is but not how it actually works” (there’s a whole can of worms)

What have you tried and what are you interested in? I would agree with your observation regarding the tutorials though. I’m glad I came into supercollider with a pretty solid understanding of synthesis. I gave up when I first tried to learn it because I didn’t understand synthesis and it was too much for me to try to wrap my head around both SC and synthesis.

This might be a bit too basic but it’s a really helpful resource:


I think that doing sound design in VCV is great too because all you need to do is add a module and play around with it. It takes a lot less time to make an idea happen there.

There are many beginner introductions to SC, but there’s a huge gap between learning the language and actually making interesting music and sound design with it. I started my YouTube channel with the intent of making a resource for SC users who want to progress beyond the beginner stage. It’s a collection of full music-making sessions in SC, demonstrating the fine-tuning process you mention:


Yeah youre right about the vagueness of my question. Its hard to say where i am exactly at. I would say i understand sound design past the level most supercollider tutorials cover. Thanks for the tips. I never thought actually of learning sound design outside of supercollider. I wonder how many people here do this, because it takes more time to get things done in supercollider.

Ive come across this channel already i see, didnt know it was yours :slight_smile:

I’d encourage you to look at https://vcvrack.com/

That’s how I learned synthesis. I commend your patience trying to learn supercollider as a means of learning synthesis because both can be really abstract. VCV is really nice to play around with, especially since things like feedback loops are far easier in VCV. SuperCollider is nasty when it comes to feedback but VCV does the buffer allocation very much in the background so all you have to do is click and drag the patch cords.

Plus you can drown yourself in free libraries. yes you can get latency and glitchy audio, but it’s honestly just a matter of how you use it and you can do the same thing in supercollider. I’ve seen lots of people do that on the forums. Like i usually don’t get above 14% but some people might be running multithread processes.

The analog modeling in VCV is a lot better than SC (because SC isn’t meant to do that) and it looks nice too.

Definitely dig into that if you’re not familiar with it and it’ll get you up and going in no time.

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I think one reason for the original question is that DSP is the same everywhere.

So it’s really learning two languages at the same time – signal processing, and how to express that in SC.

Writing tutorials is a lot of work. So, if you’re authoring tutorials, you want as wide coverage as possible. DSP theory is a pretty wide area (usable in many environments). SC programming is probably less wide, but there’s enough to talk about that authors might not want to get “sidetracked” with DSP concepts that can be learned in other places.

The intersection of the signal processing and SC areas is a lot smaller, making it perhaps a less attractive niche.

In that sense, I agree with the other suggestions here. When you understand, for instance, conventional synth design (oscillator → filter → envelope-controlled amplifier), then the question is not “sound design in SC” but rather “What are my options for oscillators in SC? For filters?” etc.

Or a basic phase-modulation formula, e.g.

var mod = SomeKindOfOscillator.ar(freq * ratio) * index;
var phase = Phasor.ar(0, freq * SampleDur.ir, 0, 1) * 2pi;
var carrier = OscWithAPhaseInput.ar(0, phase + mod);

… which, admittedly, it takes some sophistication to come up with on one’s own (and it’s a gaping hole in SC’s documentation, that we don’t provide some of these formulas).

Couple of hints for you going forward:

  • There are not that many synthesis techniques, and they don’t change from one environment to the next.
  • What makes synthesis really interesting is parameter modulation. I spend at least 2 weeks on this in my Pure Data course (and students still struggle with it). You’ll have to get familiar with this because e.g. VCV Rack handles the modulation mapping for you, while SC doesn’t.
    • Each parameter has a baseline, set value.
    • Assume a modulation signal that is either -1 … 1 or 0 … 1.
    • There is a modulation width.
    • Then the modulated signal is:
      • Linear style: (width * mod) + baseline
      • Exponential style: (width ** mod) * baseline – note the similarity between these!
      • E.g., a 0 … 1 envelope applied to frequency would be exponential. (semitones.midiratio ** envelope) * freq.
    • And done.

Also – an incredibly useful resource is the Synth Secrets series, which someone compiled into a PDF: https://drive.google.com/open?id=12SM0SAOvMq166gc8B1b81Y_S7HPym3Iy



Thanks for the hints and also the synth secrets!

For the other part you were saying: i get what you mean, but i do want to get deeper in to sound design (and try to implement the things ive learned in supercollider), rather than getting deeper into supercollider perse. You see, i want answers to questions like: how do you make a snare sound without it sounding to brushy, how do you make a good chorus, how do you implement a lexicon type reverb. Things like that, but maybe a little bit more general. You might say well what is a good sound is subjective, so you have to explore for yourself. But i would maybe try to compare it to classical music. There one learns different kind of chord progressions, harmony, techniques, or rather conventions which are generally accepted as ‘good sounding’. And im asking here what you guys have done to get so far.


The whole channel is a great resource of intermediate sound design concepts implemented in SC.

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Synth Secrets. It’s free, and deeper and more thorough than you would expect for a non-academic magazine. E.g., two chapters on snare synthesis, beginning with spectral analysis and resynthesis and ending with models of famous drum machines – it’s way beyond “bandpassed noise.”


It won’t teach you SC but a/ it is about exactly the types of questions you’re asking and b/ if you learn the concepts and then apply them in SC, I think it’s a deeper level of understanding than learning them in SC (because you could take the concepts and use them in Max/Pd or Reaktor or wherever – but if you only learn SC formulas for them, you might not really understand the concepts and get stuck if you have to translate to another environment).


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Your channel and blog are so good!

I just wondering where to keep information to learn pure sound design not exclusively related to sc, Video tutorials, manuals, recipes, online schools, expert professional sounddesigner/ composer, electroacustic musicians?

Or by reverse engineering synth presets?
Or by reverse engineering the tools used, perhaps made in other languages…

Even just to practice fine tuning.

it would be also interesting to practice with multiple sounds at the same time, to learn a bit about mixing.

Then movement of the parts, and crazy automation of the whole.

Once all these steps have been done, it would be interesting to take the synthdefs and explore them with generative systems… through other techniques, granulation etc…
and also post processing with effects and automations!

Of course it would be nice to learn much more “experimental” synthesis, gendy, concatenative etc…

I feel like looking for the “needle in the haystack” makes me lose the big picture.

Am I the only one?

At the begininng I was hoping to find a way to sound “original”! and I liked a lot the super clean sound of sc compared to everything else I heard around, even more “surgical” and malleable.

I remember the first times listening to this album and thinking — how is possible to make such a crazy and malleable music ?!

anyway :slight_smile:

If you guys have advices about those topics, you are welcome!

Ps: I studied electroacoustic music for 5 years in Italy, but I feel I have many many gaps

For instance I would love to learn some of these presets, just to start, because honestly I’m not able to make sound like that… even if to my ears they sound “flat, without salt” but correct and pleasant!

forgive the outburst…